~ C.R.O.S.S.I.N.G ~ T.H.E ~ E.A.S.T ~ S.E.A ~
1 THE INVITATION
The evening sun was shining in through the tall glass windows of Yuuei Academy as Hitoshi Shinsou made his way down the carpeted corridor, a pile of books in his arms. The mid-year examinations were coming, and students everywhere were beginning to feel the pressure, especially those in their final year.
Shinsou was with Ayumi, a girl from General Studies, and they were heading toward the library. In an attempt to appear chivalrous, he had offered to carry her books for her, in addition to his own, and the pile in his arms was beginning to feel rather cumbersome. His own math textbook was on top, and he was staring at it and wondering how he was going to handle all the calculus problems inside, when he heard someone calling his name.
"Shinsou! A word with you, please."
Shinsou turned around. Shouta Aizawa was standing nearby, tall and forbidding, the usual tired expression on his face.
"Aizawa-sensei," said Shinsou, automatically. Ayumi gave a small squeak of fright, because Aizawa always made her nervous. "I'll go first, see you later," she whispered, and rapidly disappeared down the corridor, forgetting to take her books from him.
Shinsou frowned. He wondered what the teacher wanted. He hoped it wasn't going to take too long, especially as the books were beginning to feel heavier by the minute.
"There's something I've been wanting to talk to you about for a while, Shinsou," said Aizawa, looking speculatively at him.
Shinsou said nothing. He had gotten angry with another student the previous week, and had brainwashed him by calling out to him from a distance so that he wouldn't be recognised. He had then made the student strip and run naked around the school corridors, singing at the top of his voice. No one knew Shinsou had done it, because he had first instructed the student to hide in the toilet for half an hour before venturing out and commencing the performance. Shinsou had been in the middle of a class when the commotion broke out, so it didn't occur to anyone that he had been responsible.
Even so, Aizawa was usually quite sharp, and Shinsou couldn't put it past him to guess the truth. He looked at the teacher, trying to keep his expression as neutral as possible.
"What about?" he said, casually.
"You'll be graduating soon, Shinsou," said Aizawa directly, "What are you planning to do after that?"
Shinsou looked at him in surprise. Most of the students in the hero classes had received nominations from pro heroes, and it was the norm every year that the majority accepted job offers from these various hero agencies. Besides, it was only the middle of the year; there was still the hurdle of the final examinations six months later, and it seemed rather early to be discussing career prospects.
"Apply for a hero agency, I suppose," he said, vaguely.
"No other options?" said Aizawa, observing him carefully.
"Well, it's still early," said Shinsou, evasively. He shifted the books slightly, to balance their weight more evenly on both arms.
"Not that early," said Aizawa, "You should put more thought into it. I've talked to you about this before. Your Quirk isn't like most. The more well known you become, the harder it'll be for you to use it. Once people get wise to the way your Quirk works, they're not going to respond to you. Are you going to wear a different disguise every time you go on patrol?"
"I presume you have something to suggest?" said Shinsou. He hoped that Aizawa would notice all the books he was carrying, and end the conversation soon.
"Put those books on the ground," said Aizawa, "This will take a while."
Shinsou placed the books on the floor, and then looked at Aizawa, perplexed.
"I've mentioned doing undercover work to you, before," Aizawa reminded him.
"Yes," Shinsou said, noncommittally.
"It would make more sense, taking a job where you'd have to be in disguise, routinely," Aizawa continued.
"I told you, I'd consider it," said Shinsou, not sounding too enthusiastic. "I suppose you have a specific place in mind?"
"I do," agreed Aizawa, "Have you heard of the Tokyo Intelligence Directorate?"
"It sounds familiar," said Shinsou, not wanting to admit that he'd never heard of it, "what do they do?"
"It's our national intelligence agency," said Aizawa, "it takes care of Japan's national security."
Somehow, his words triggered something in Shinsou's memory.
"There have been rumours going around that you might be leaving," he said slowly, although he doubted that Aizawa was going to share his own career plans with a student.
Aizawa looked at him for one long moment.
"There's some truth in that," he finally said, "however, don't let it go any further. I've been here at Yuuei for a while, and after some years, it's time to move on. I'll still be mentoring people, to some extent, in the new position, but the scope of the work will be different."
Shinsou looked surprised that Aizawa was telling him all this.
"I've been talking to Fujiwara, the Director-General of the Directorate," continued Aizawa, "I mentioned you to him, and he's quite interested in your Quirk. He thinks it suitable for intelligence work. He asked me to extend an invitation to you to apply to the Directorate, after you graduate."
"You've been talking to him?" said Shinsou, "So … is that where you're going? The Directorate?"
"What's attracting you to the job there?" asked Shinsou, suddenly looking intently at him, "What exactly do they do?"
"They look after the national security of the country," answered Aizawa, "they monitor anything that might pose a threat to Japan – military force, terrorism, economic power, energy security, even disease or natural disasters. The scope is wide-ranging, and keeps changing. There are a lot of people working there, and one need not necessarily be a hero to qualify – scientists, data analysts, and so on. In your case, you're more suited to be a covert operative – a hero licence would be a definite plus if you were to apply – and you'd mostly be gathering intelligence. Something very easy for you, with your Quirk."
"And you'd be in that, too, I suppose," said Shinsou, "Covert operations?"
"Yes," said Aizawa calmly, "but in a more supervisory role. I'd probably not go out in the field so often, as a new recruit like you would, perhaps just once in a while."
"Go out in the field?" said Shinsou, puzzled.
"That's Directorate jargon," said Aizawa, "it means going out on an assignment, or a mission."
He paused, looking intently at Shinsou, then continued.
"I've known Fujiwara for a long time. He's been trying to persuade me to join for years, and he said that he didn't get to me early enough – I'd already found other things to do. That's why he pressed me to ask you early – before someone else gets hold of you."
Shinsou was looking at Aizawa thoughtfully, trying to digest all the information. "Gathering intelligence, huh."
"Not just that," said Aizawa, "There'll be a big physical element to it too. You're likely to encounter plenty of villains in the process, and you're going to have to know how to fight as much as you will in a hero agency. They'll train you, and the training will be thorough and tough."
He brought out several sheets of paper, and handed them to Shinsou.
"Here are the application forms. You can apply online as well, of course. The Director-General said that you can apply right now, without waiting for the end of the school year. They'll call you over for an interview and give you some psychological tests, and they'll then get your final term results from the school once they've been released, and notify you if your application has been successful."
"So, I assume you'd advise me to go for it," said Shinsou, looking at the application forms.
"Well, I'm advocating something that I'm going in for, myself," Aizawa pointed out, "and there'll be an intellectual component to working there, as well. You'd have to read up and understand things. Your mind is agile enough for the challenge, I would say. It would be good for you to put it to more productive use, rather than thinking up ways of getting even with objectionable fellow students."
Shinsou looked sharply at Aizawa, but the latter had an unreadable expression on his face.
"That's all I have to say," said the teacher, "Think about it, Shinsou. You have plenty of time to think now. There's no harm applying, and also applying to wherever else appeals to you, such as a hero agency. Once the exams are over, you can begin evaluating your options more seriously."
Shinsou nodded slowly, looking again at the forms in his hand. The Director-General had been smart enough to have Aizawa pass him something tangible, he thought, so that he would be reminded of the invitation to apply. If he had just been told to apply online, he would probably have forgotten about it within a day.
"One last thing," said Aizawa, as Shinsou bent down and picked his books up again, "Fujiwara said to tell you that you can join a hero agency, and be just a promising hero, always watching the rankings and popularity polls; or you can forget about all that, join the Directorate, and be an exceptional undercover hero. You won't get as much recognition, but you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you're really good at what you do."
These words were ringing in Shinsou's ears as the tall hero turned and walked off. He slipped the forms into one of the books, and proceeded to the library to look for Ayumi. He didn't get much work done in the end, though. He was staring at the forms on the table most of the time, thinking about what Aizawa had said.
Several days later, he was still thinking about it. He checked the Directorate's website, and methodically went through each page. Finally, he realised that the exams were almost upon him, and he still hadn't managed to get any studying done.
"What the heck," he thought, "no point thinking about it any more. Just apply, and forget about it till after the exams. If I get in, I can always give it a try. If I don't like it, I'll just leave, and apply for a hero agency."
He filled up the online application form, and after checking through it carefully, clicked the [submit] button. The application forms that Aizawa had given him had become rather dog-eared in the meantime, and he eventually threw them away.
He was finally able to get into the mood for studying after that. The examinations arrived, and as they progressed and his other hero training activities absorbed him, he became preoccupied with other matters, and soon forgot all about his conversation with Aizawa, and the Tokyo Intelligence Directorate.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
This is the first story in a set of three about Shinsou and his life as a covert operative after his graduation from Yuuei, but it was the last for me to write. I'd written the trilogy in reverse order – first Mindbender, then The Sword of Amaterasu, and now Crossing The East Sea. I must say that this last one was the hardest of the three to write, mainly due to fatigue … I started the first fanfic in August 2017, so in less than a year I've researched and written three book-length stories. I'm so happy that I've managed to complete all of it! And I intend to take a long break after this.
But it has been great working with Shinsou's character, and I must say that I think his Quirk is incredibly powerful. He can actually do things that people like Midoriya and Bakugou could never do, and the nature of his Quirk is wonderful for formulating more complex plots that involve thinking and wisdom rather than brute force. I'm glad to say that in this trilogy I do feel I've managed to let him fulfil his dream to "become a greater hero than all of you".
I have actually been waiting for Shinsou to re-appear in the manga – Horikoshi said "end of this year or early next year", but it's coming to May and he still hasn't shown up. For this last fanfic I would have liked to know what sort of combat skill he picked up while in Yuuei, and whether he really got into the hero class in the end. I don't want to wait too long before posting this fanfic, though, so I am going to assume he did get into one of the hero classes, and that he did master some combat skill as a result, but this is replaced by other skills which he picked up once he joined the Directorate.
It is humbling to write a story that takes place in a country like North Korea, but I hope that this will also give readers some idea of the type of life that the people there go through. Yeonha was named after the South Korean figure skater Kim Yuna, of whom I'm a big fan, and Kaneshiro after the actor Takeshi Kaneshiro (and he is just as handsome).
I'd like to thank fellow writer Flying Porkchop for giving me some help with the Korean honorifics in the story. The honorifics ended up being rather confusing, because some names were in Japanese and some in Korean, so in the end I decided to just use Japanese honorifics for the Japanese names, and Korean ones for the Korean names.
This fanfic is dedicated to my old friend Hirofumi Tanabe, who hails from Niigata, and whom I met so many years ago when we were studying in Reading, UK.